Two of my friends and I made an accidental ascent of the Black Chimney route this summer in early August. We started early (2:00 a.m.) because John had to be at work by early afternoon. We planned to take the standard East Face Route, but a friend told us to "keep to the right", and we went a little too far to the right.... well, way too far actually.
We followed the Apex Trail up to the Worshipper and the Idol (two large gendarmes) at which point we saw a cairn marking an offshoot trail to the right. We figured that it must be the right way. We headed up a small couloir to a notch where Crooked Thumb was visible. At this point I began to worry that we might be on the wrong trail because we were so far north. At this col there was a pretty sheer drop-off toward the north and Crooked Thumb but to our left (east) there seemed to be a short and passable (but exposed) chimney. We climbed it without much difficulty (though we all agreed that it would be no fun to downclimb) and traversed east on a grassy ledge all the way to a very steep narrow chimney. We saw two rappel slings around a chockstone about nine feet above us. At first we tried to ascend the chimney with just hand jams and some fancy footwork in our trail running shoes, but eventually we gave up and pulled ourselves up using the rappel slings. We pulled ourselves up onto several other ledges and chockstones throughout the chimney that ranged from chest high to 10 or 11 feet high. There are two or three old pitons in random points throughout the chimney. Toward the middle of the chimney we found the crux. It is a difficult move to a ledge about 8 feet high with few good hand and footholds. We stemmed across the chimney and with a few 5.7 or 5.8 moves (although I have heard people describe it as being as difficult as 5.9) we were up. A few more ledges and we were up where we veered left onto the traverse to the summit.
The summit is quite small and the benchmark has been taken off for some reason. It offers a fantastic view of the North Face of the Grand, The Teton Glacier, and Mt. Owen. Two other groups summited after us via the East Face. This was quite fortunate because there was no way we were going to go down the way we came up, so we followed the others.
All-in-all, this was a great learning experience for the three of us and I would do it again in a heartbeat (now that I know the way down!). The climbing ranges from 5.4 to somewhere around 5.8 and is comparable to the Owen-Spalding route on the Grand, only with slightly harder climbing and a little less exposure.
This is truly an amazing climb for more experienced climbers who want a quick solo route but want something more challenging than the east face. We descended the East Face which was very easy in comparison to the Northeast Chimney but had we brought a rope we could have rappeled the same way we came up.
I would not reccomend this to inexperienced climbers unless accompanied by someone who knows how to belay, place protection, etc. A helmet would be beneficial, especially on the upper chimney where there are several areas where loose rock could be kicked down.
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